Dog owners have a dizzying array of choices when it comes to purchasing food for their pets. In addition to kibble, which has been on the market for decades, there are now choices that include vegan, organic, raw, and most recently, human grade meal options. This set an explosion that makes some people wonder how the dog food industry ever got started. James Spratt may have gotten the commercial pet food industry started in 1860, but he never could have imagined where it would lead.
"Throughout history we have changed a lot in terms of the way we take care of our pets," explains veterinarian Oscar Chavez, chief medical officer for JustFoodForDogs and professor of canine clinical nutrition. "We are now trending back to feeding our dogs human grade food. This is great, because it’s much better for them. They will get the nutrients they need, live a better quality of life, and likely live a longer lifespan."
While we reach for pet food at the store regularly, most of us likely never give a thought to how we got to where we are with the industry. Here’s a brief historical pet food timeline that helps explain how we got to where we are today:
Dogs are believed to have been domesticated over 16,000 years ago. Historically, they subsided on table scraps and leftovers and would scavenge on their own to see what they could find.
James Spratt introduced the world to the commercial pet food when he created, a dog "biscuit" in 1860. Made from vegetables, beef blood, beetroot, and a mix of grains, they were expensive, so they were marketed for those with show dogs. The biscuits became available in the 1895. In 1907, Carleton Ellis took the dog biscuit a step further, putting it into the shape of a bone.
Once Spratt’s dog biscuit idea was out there, a British company began using it to formulate its own recipes to make commercial dry kibble. Around 1890 production began in the U.S.
In 1922, according to the Pet Food Institute, canned dog food first became available. This food was primarily made from horse meat, which at the time was considered acceptable. The rationing of meat and metal during WWII pushed more companies to revert back to dry dog food.
In the 1950s, modern kibble was created, which is when big businesses entered the market and began creating various brands. In the last five decades, a handful of major conglomerates (e.g., Smuckers, Procter & Gamble, M&M Mars, Purina, etc.) started producing kibble under different brand names and are responsible for the more than 250 brands you see today in pet stores and on grocers' shelves.
In the 1960s, the first commercial pet foods that were created to meet the nutritional needs of dogs were introduced. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the nutritional needs for cats and dogs were officially published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council.
Over the past 20-40 years - marketing of specialty brands with many of them making various claims e.g., "real meat," "puppy food," etc. target specific demographic groups. In reality, these products are still made largely with feed grade ingredients, which hold no nutritional value.
In recent years, consumers have become much savvier regarding pet food ingredients. They are responding to the many recalls and scrutinizing the claims made by pet food manufacturers. In 2007, the biggest pet food recall in history involving about 180 brands of cat and dog food packaged by some of the most prominent names in the business.
Nielsen, a global information company, reports that the trend in pet foods is that people are seeking healthier options, and they are looking for foods that do not contain particular ingredients such as GMO’s, corn, hormones, and fillers.
"Our dogs are part of our families, which means that we want to feed them well so they can live happy and healthy lives," adds Dr. Chavez. "What we feed our dogs plays a huge role in their overall health and well being. That’s why we have created JustFoodForDogs."
Founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Shawn Buckley, JustFoodForDogs invented a new and superior method of feeding dogs by using real food -- the same ingredients families across America enjoy such as lean ground beef, broccoli, wild cod, sweet potatoes, etc. -- lightly cooked and refrigerated or frozen for preservation. All ingredients are USDA certified for humans but nutritionally balanced for dogs. The efficacy of the concept and its mass acceptance by the public and veterinarian community have fueled the company's solid growth.
JustFoodForDogs is made fresh each day in the exhibition kitchens of its retail stores and sold at its 13 locations and nationwide thanks to its thriving e-commerce business. The company also is in partnership with Pet Food Express in the Bay Area where the products are available in 60+ stores. JustFoodForDogs has also entered into an agreement with San Diego-headquartered Petco, a leading specialty retailer of pet products and services with more than 1,500 Petco and Unleashed by Petco locations in North America, to open hundreds of "stores within stores" with many of them featuring exhibition kitchens so customers can see how the food is made.
The JustFoodForDogs kitchens and pantries are located in southern California in Costa Mesa, West Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Manhattan Beach, Del Mar, Capistrano Beach, Downtown Los Angeles, Anaheim Hills, Long Beach, Glendale, and Mission Viejo. The company also offers online recipes for those who want to make their own healthy, whole food meals from scratch at home. The company has a team of nine veterinarians, including a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist, and a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. The company also offers treats, supplements, veterinary support diets, custom formulations and a cat recipe. Their foods are available online and can be shipped nationally. To learn more about JustFoodForDogs, visit www.justfoodfordogs.com.
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Nielson. Trends in pet care mirror those of pet owners. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/trends-in-pet-care-mirror-those-of-pet-owners.html
Pet Food Industry. History of pet food. https://www.petfoodinstitute.org/pet-food-matters/nutrition-2/history-of-pet-food/
Dog Food Trends Point to More Human Grade Meals, A Historical Perspective
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